Ask An Electrician About The Modern Alternatives To Traditional Diesel Backup Generators | Wilmington, NC

Ask An Electrician About The Modern Alternatives To Traditional Diesel Backup Generators | Wilmington, NC

Going green is more than just fashionable. It can also be profitable and help you reduce your monthly operating costs. Diesel generators remain the most popular system in use throughout Wilmington, NC. However, that could change as many people look to reduce their carbon footprint and switch to cleaner energy options. Natural gas generators are gaining significant popularity. There are some benefits and details that you need to know before you make the decision to ask your local electrician to fit a generator with an alternative power source.

Is Diesel Fuel Dead?

The growing popularity of natural gas generators does not mean that diesel generators will disappear. Manufacturers have developed diesel generators that emit astonishingly low levels of emissions in response to Tier 4 regulations. The explosion of fracking has led to significant natural gas supplies, and a natural gas generator is often less expensive for an electrician to install than its diesel counterpart. However, this doesn’t mean that a diesel-powered generator should be off the table.

Are There Eco-friendly Advantages of Natural Gas?

Natural gas is not pollution-free. For natural gas-powered generators, the CO2 emissions per million BTU are approximately 117 lbs. as opposed to 160 lbs. for diesel fuels. Lower emissions can translate into less stringent EPA requirements. This in itself can be a significant advantage.

There are also secondary benefits. Natural gas is often piped directly to the generator via a municipal gas line. This reduces the risk of spillages or leaks. This also means that there are fewer emissions from the transportation of the fuel to its end-user.

Other Advantages of Using a Natural Gas-powdered Backup

Running a natural gas generator directly from the wellhead can save you money and ensure that your generators have constant fuel. Natural gas is also non-toxic and won’t cause any adverse effects if there’s a leak. Natural gas is readily available and its prices are stable compared with other fuel options.

However, natural gas is much more combustible than diesel, so it poses more of a fire risk and benefits from careful installation by a licensed electrician. Additionally, if oil and gas production falls, so does natural gas availability. This can lead to higher operating costs and make natural gas generators more costly than diesel.

How About Using Biodiesel Fuel?

Any Wilmington, NC electrician who services generators sometimes hears this question from people looking to switch to a better fuel alternative. There are many biodiesel fuels you can use and others that cannot. If you want to “go green” or reduce your carbon footprint, it’s best to engage an expert about options that suit your existing or potential backup generator setup.

Biodiesel 101

Biodiesel can be made from soybeans, sunflower seeds, rape seed, palm oil, and other sources. It can appear almost like molasses if it isn’t sufficiently refined. By combining vegetable oil and alcohol, you can make vegetable-based biodiesel fuels. The final product closely matches the properties of petrochemical-based diesel, but it comes from a more eco-friendly source.

Biodiesel Is Not a Cheaper Option

Biodiesel can help reduce your carbon footprint. Compared to other fuels, it is much safer to transport and store. However, it is also more expensive than regular diesel, and harder to find. Even if there is a source nearby, it’s likely that you will have difficulty finding someone to supply fuel if your regular provider runs out. Plus, not every electrician is familiar with biodiesel, so you may be limiting who can provide accurate advice and timely repairs if something goes awry.

Biodiesel Can Ruin a Generator

Any generator can use biodiesel provided that it is pure biodiesel. However, your generator may need to be converted by an electrician before it can safely use biodiesel made from vegetable oil or animal fats. This is because fat and plant-based biodiesel tend to be thicker. To warm up the generator, you will still need to use regular diesel fuel. This will allow pure animal-/plant-based biodiesel to flow through it safely. This is another problem: two fuels will require two fuel storage tanks.

Switching Between Natural Gas and Diesel Generator Fuel

Bi-fuel generator technology has been around for more than 100 years. These generators can run on either diesel fuel or natural gas. It is easy to switch between the two fuels. This can be done either automatically or manually. This allows you to choose the fuel that is most efficient for different tasks. It is a great way for businesses to reduce fuel costs and stockpile energy for emergency use.

Bi-fuel systems can run either natural gas, or diesel. This means that most businesses and homeowners in Wilmington, NC won’t have to keep large quantities of diesel fuel stored on-site. An electrician can simply connect the generator to the main gas line and the generator will be ready to go. There is no need for large fuel storage. 

Using a generator that can switch between diesel and natural gas effectively can lead to cost savings. Due to the fluctuation in diesel and natural gas prices, natural gas may be more expensive than diesel one month and vice versa the next. To reduce operating costs, smart generator owners can take advantage of changes in the fuel market and use the most economical fuel at any given time. It is important to remember, however, that bi-fuel generators rely on diesel fuel to ignite; therefore, it is vital to have at least some diesel in stock to guarantee its operation.

Everyone wants fresh air, especially in urban and suburban areas. Bi-fuel generators are ideal for this as they produce around 30% less nitrogen oxide emissions and about 50% less particulate emissions. Not only can the generator be installed by an electrician quickly, it has a lower risk of being rescinded by the EPA due to its emissions levels. Of course, it also generates cleaner, fresher air! To find out more about alternative backup generator fuels, contact an electrician from Mister Sparky of Wilmington.

Photo By AndreyPopov at istock